In the play, Hamlet, female characters that did not follow their specific gender role were mistreated. These expectations refine the ideal social standard which created the assumption that women must behave in a fixed manner in society. The importance of these roles emphasizes how certain characteristics in early modern European society were glorified. Specific standards for women allowed society to define who she is and what her worth is through rumors. In a chapter “Gender and sexuality in early modern England,” from an article, “Gender, Power and Privilege in Early Modern Europe,” author Dolan states that although women experienced various disadvantages because of their gender, they also “found many ways to exercise authority” (Dolan 8). Ophelia challenges the authority as she confronts Hamlet of her feelings, and returns his belongings. Hamlet emotionally reacts and verbally abuses her by iterating, “Get thee to a nunnery” (3.1). Hamlet later criticizes women for being deceiving as he expects they would do anything to keep their reputation clean; and in this case, Ophelia breaks up the relationship to protect herself from rumors. At first, she manages to tell Hamlet how she feels, but is then oppressed by Hamlet’s thoughts. The relevance of this interaction clarifies the difference in actions between the two characters. Societal standards force Ophelia to remain submissive during Hamlet’s emotional contemplation. As she tried to exercise her authority, she did not seem more prominent or powerful due to her gender role. Ophelia’s behavior exemplifies the idea of specific feminine values, where women were identified from societal expectations, to remain prim or ladylike.


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